23 March 2016 - Best Beer HQ
Top 5 facts about Mexican beer
Mexican beer is so hot right now. Whether you’re reading this in the United States, Australia, the United Kingdom, or somewhere in Africa or Asia, chances are there’s a Mexican beer readily available at a bar or bottle shop near you.
Frankly, it’d be silly for any beer outlet not to stock at least Corona, considering it’s one of the best-selling beers in the world, having even overtaken Heineken in many international markets – including the US, where it’s the number-one selling imported beer (probably much to Donald Trump’s frustration).
But there’s more to Mexican beer than just Corona, and we don’t plan on rehashing our mega-popular post “Top 5 facts about Corona Extra” anytime soon.
This time we’re going to look at 5 facts about the Mexican beer industry in general and the history of beer there…
1. The Aztecs drank beer… well, sort of, but not really
Beer has a long history in Mexico, with Mesoamerican cultures knowing all about fermented alcoholic beverages long before the Spanish conquistadores ever visited the Americas.
A fermented beverage called pulque, made from the sap of the agave plant, was common. But arguably the closest thing they had to beer was a drink called tesgüino or izquiate, which was made from fermented corn, resulting in a light, amber-coloured liquid that was whisked before drinking.
Some traditionalists still make and drink these beverages today.
2. The first brewery in the Americas
Of course it was the Spanish, during the sixteenth century, who introduced Mexico and the Americas to the European style of beer that we all know and love today. Not long after it was introduced – sometime in the 1540s – a man by the name of Alfonso de Herrero was the first person to open a brewery in the Americas.
Herrera’s brewery struggled because alcohol consumption was highly regulated by Spanish authorities (who were protecting the import market from Europe) and sourcing beer-making ingredients was relatively expensive. Plus it was difficult to persuade people away from their more traditional, local alcoholic beverages.
In the end, the brewery didn’t pass the test of time, and the exact location of Herrera’s brewery is unknown. But he did manage to get the ball rolling in terms of beer making in Mexico.
3. American prohibition boosted the Mexican beer industry
Nearly four centuries later, there were 36 beer producers in Mexico by the end of World War One. They faced serious competition from American breweries over the boarder which, thanks to the establishment of a railroad system in Mexico at the end of the 19th century, started importing mass quantities of beer into Mexico.
Then prohibition took hold in the United States in the 1920s, which eliminated the competition for Mexican breweries and gave them a legion of new thirsty customers. Prohibition soon became boom time for Mexican breweries, which started popping up along the border in greater numbers to quench the thirsts of beer-starved American citizens, who would have to “pop over” for a drink.
4. Mexico is the largest exporter of beer in the world
Mexico has long overtaken the Netherlands as the biggest exporter of beer in the world, with exports exceeding more than US$2bn annually. Obviously, the leading Mexican beer brand is Corona, whose sales continue to increase internationally even as the global beer business dries up.
In fact, Corona is struggling to keep up with all the demand. The company even told The Wall Street Journal last year that it’s planning on doubling its capacity in the near future to keep up with all the grow demand in the United States and the rest of the world.
5. Mexican craft beer isn’t popular but it does exist
In 2013 a whopping 98% of the Mexican beer market was controlled by two companies – Grupo Modelo and Cuauhtemoc-Moctezuma – and microbreweries accounted for less than one percent of the total market.
Now, we know that’s an incredibly depressing statistic, but try not to let it get you too down. Although small, the market share of Mexican craft beer producers is rapidly increasing – by as much as 50-60% per year according to some industry experts. So watch this space.